Expand your personal frontier by applying the art of the possible. (Episode 121)

Expand your personal frontier by applying the art of the possible. (Episode 121)

Interview with Larry D. James, Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer at The Jet Propulsion Laboratory.



Larry D. James has one of the coolest jobs on the planet. Or let me rephrase that: He has one of the coolest jobs in the solar system.

Larry is Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer at The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) – a research and development center associated with NASA that focuses on the design, development, and operation of robotic space missions. Their innovations are out of this world.

One of their many, many amazing projects was to build the first flying vehicle on another planet. They were the ones who developed the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.

To fly something on another planet – a planet that has an atmosphere that has 1% of the pressure of the atmosphere on Earth – is a crazy challenge but JPL pulled it off with a smile. And the helicopter flew over 70 missions (way pass the initial goal of 5).

Larry summed up what draws some of the smartest people to work at JPL when he said: “If you want an exciting career where you aorganizationn organization that takes on big challenges for the whole human race, then this is a good place to be.”

I asked Larry to share with me what we can learn about developing our own creative abilities from such an extremely innovative organisation.

At JPL there is a culture of always wanting to go further. Larry calls it “The Art of the Possible.”

They aim to tackle problems that have never been tackled before and aim to answer questions that have never been answered, by focusing on how to make them possible.

The Art of the Possible is about having a mindset of focusing on making the seemingly impossible possible.

Larry told me, with a smile: “Here we like to ask two questions when people propose an outrageous idea. First we ask: “Does physics prevent it?” Then we ask: “Is it illegal?” If the answer to both is “No” then our next response is: “Let’s figure it out!”

The Art of the Possible is such a refreshing mentality in a world where so many people focus on why things cannot be done.

When asked how to live in accordance with the Art of the Possible Larry said: “First raise the bar for the kind of questions that are being asked. Then do a check to make sure that these questions really need to be answered. (to make sure you are not going down a futile or unnecessary route) and finally ask yourself: How can I get the resources to make this happen?”

The mission of JPL is to “expand the frontier of science and to better understand our earth and the universe.” With a mission like that you can see that people get inspired to think beyond what is.

But the mindset of the Art of the Possible can be applied to anyone and anywhere, according to Larry. “To make the seemingly impossible possible, we need to expand our personal frontier. Creativity is about wanting to go further.”

“Expand your personal frontier” – what a beautiful approach to life.

Where are the borders of your own creativity, and what are you doing to expand beyond them?

These are the questions we should ask ourselves on a regular basis to make sure we are pushing our creativity to its full potential.

To paraphrase another creative space man: “To Creativity and Beyond!”

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